Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Kobolds Ate My Baby is finally available again!

It is rules light silly fun.  Very silly fun.  Like so silly a knight might slap you in the head with a chicken silly.  But besides that, it's a blast and a great diversion from serious gaming for an evening or six.

The review on the link above is solid and accurate, and the game is fun.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What's cool about this cupcake?

Ostensibly, I blog about food and cooking, remember?


The peas and carrots in the foreground sort of make it obvious, but this is a mini meatloaf, with mashed potato 'frosting' and peas & carrots and a dash of paprika 'sprinkles'.  and voilĂ , my four year old loves meatloaf!  Starting with about a pound and a half of meat, you can divide the raw meatloaf into a dozen muffins, and baking them in muffin tins cuts the cooking time way down.  I think these were ready in about 20 mins instead of an hour.  To really knock it out of the park, add a 'wrapper' by lining the muffin cups with a strip of bacon before filling the tins with the meatloaf. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I must have one....

This is so much more amusing than it really is, if that makes any sense.  :-)

I've gotten custom dice from Eric in the past, and they are awesome, and he's great to work with.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

If you can, please donate to Hurricane Sandy relief

I had planned to periodically bump these announcements about Movember throughout the month, but now I have mixed feeling about stumping for donations because of my family ties to downstate NY, New Jersey, and other areas ravished by Hurricane Sandy. That said, [URL=""]Movember donations[/URL] are accepted through the end of Movember.

Obviously, I support the efforts to promote men’s health, but donations to Movember will pay off in the future. There are entire communities made homeless and needing food, water and heat [I]right now[/I]. The flood devastation in the [URL=""]Rockaways Queens[/URL] is amazing, and the rest of the areas hit by the storm will take months or years to recover.  Some may not.

If you or anyone you know wants to help, please spread the word that donations can be made to the [URL=""]Red Cross Hurricane Sandy Relief[/URL] or [URL=""]Direct Relief.Org’s Hurricane Sandy Relief.[/URL]

Actually, my feelings are not mixed.  I'd say if you have just one dollar to donate [I]somewhere[/I], donate it to the Hurricane relief.  If everyone chipped in just one dollar... well, you get the idea.  Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Join Me!

Changing the Face of Men’s Health

What’s  it  All  About ?
Movember is a global movement bringing back the moustache for the month of November to raise awareness and funds for men’s health.  It’s about having some fun for a serious cause.

Grow  a  “Mo”
Mo Bros, supported by their Mo Sistas, register individually or as part of a team and start November 1st clean-shaven.  The next 30 days they grow a Mo, raising money as they grow.*
Mo Bros become walking, talking billboards to raise awareness and prompt private and public conversation about the issue of men’s health.

Think  About  The  Future
A man’s lifetime risk of developing testicular cancer is approximately 1 in 250. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, affecting 1 in 6 men. A man is 35% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than a woman is to be diagnosed with breast cancer.
The money raised during the Movember campaign is used to create world-class awareness, education, survivorship and research programs. 
Visit for more information and to register. 

*Donations can be made directly to your Mo Space at or sent via mail using a donation form.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Monsters by Email (dot) com

You must check this out!  If only for the wild, imaginative artwork!

And if you get in now, you can get a discounted subscription.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Movember is almost here!
You can help fund raise for men's health issues, particularly prostate and testicular cancers, by donating on my MoSpace:

Join the movement!  You and everyone you know can register too.

Men are 35% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than woman are to be diagnosed with breast cancer... thinking long-term, the cancer you prevent might just be your own! 

You can also rock this cool Bruce Lee T-shirt

Friday, September 21, 2012

Kirk's Parchute jump from space? That's so 1960.

The real 1960, that is!

I had never heard of this, but US Air Force Pilot Joseph Kittinger jumped from a balloon 30 km above the earth's surface.  For all intents and purposes, from space! MADNESS.  He even exceeded Mach 1 on the descent... why isn't he famous?

Also from Tumblr today, and awesome print of famous robots.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Too much of a geek to leave it alone

So after buying Zombie Dice 2, a hundred ideas popped into my head for how to do another expansion for the game.  Presented here is my totally unofficial, nearly unplaytested, fan-designed Zombie dice expansion: three new 'hero dice' to add to the game, with two new icons that affect game play.  If anyone owns Zombie dice and wants to make these from regular dice and stickers and play test it, please share your thoughts!

Zombie Dice: 28 Dice Later...
Three new Dice to add to your game:
The Mad Scientist, the Lab Animal Activist and the Bad Ass. Two new icons are also introduced and defined below.
(I will probably ditch or change the Activist, but YMMV).

The Bad Ass is that hard-hitting action hero type who blows up a dozen zombies in a final blaze of glory that affords the heroes a chance to escape once the cast starts getting thinned out.  In 28 Weeks Later, it's Jeremy Renner, but this could be any action hero guy.  Swap the Bad Ass for a standard red die.  The Bad Ass die is red (red plastic, like the Santa Claus die) with black ink and has the following icons:
  1. Feet (In his case, it's strategic withdrawal to reload, not to retreat)
  2. Shotgun Blast
  3. Shotgun Blast
  4. Double Brain (counts as two)
  5. Chainsaw
  6. Chainsaw (see below)
               (the Bad Ass is not your friend)

The Mad Scientist developed the bio-weapon thingy/stuff that mutated and caused the whole Zombie plague.  He of course, works at a secret government laboratory and so has some means to defend himself from Zombies.  Swap the Scientist for a Green standard die. His die is white with blue ink and has the following icons:
  1. Feet
  2. Feet
  3. Double Brain (scientists are smart)
  4. Shotgun Blast (or chainsaw?)
  5. Bio Hazard symbol
  6. Bio Hazard symbol
The Activist represents the people at the beginning of 28 Days Later who release the lab monkeys and unknowingly set the whole zombie plague in motion.  Swap this for a Green standard die. This die is green with white or black ink, and has the following icons:
  1. Feet
  2. Feet
  3. Feet
  4. Brain
  5. Bio Hazard symbol
  6. Bio Hazard symbol
            (the activist is your friend)
The Chainsaw icon represents a grievous permanent wound your Zombie suffers; perhaps lopping off an arm or part of the head.  When a chainsaw is rolled, it counts as a shotgun blast and you keep it for the rest of the game! It is not returned to the dice up after your turn.  Since you keep it, on your next turn, your turn ends after only two more shotgun blasts (essentially, you start each round with one strike).

The Biohazard symbol represents re-exposure to whatever pathogen or mutagen made the zombies rise in the first place, and if rolled by a player who has a chainsaw wound, it heals them!  This is the only way to eliminate a chainsaw die.  If the chainsaw wound is healed in this way, the Bad Ass goes back into the dice cup.  If you roll Bio Hazard and don't have a chainsaw wound/die, it counts as a brain.  Yummy!

P.S.: These are the bullet points? really?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More Braaaains... Zombie Dice 2!

So I broke down and bought Zombie Dice Two: Double Feature.  It really is a very cool expansion of the game.  It's so worth the 8 bucks.

The new dice (you swap out standard yellow or green dice to keep 13 as the total) add several fun twists and the one I didn't expect is that the two 'hero' dice, if rolled at the same time, can "rescue" each other.  The Santa die (yes) can power up your Zombie (helmet = tough, you take 4 shotgun blasts to kill, not three, or Energy Drink gives your Zombie extra speed so all the rolls of Feet are treated as Braaaains... NICE).  Of course, Santa may still blow your head off... if you've been naughty, I suppose.

So I'd say it's totally worth it.  More yummy brains, more fun!

Here's the rule sheet (link from

Speaking of fun with Zombie Dice, dig this.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Forgot one

How could I forget the Reaper Miniatures BONES Kickstarter! 

This is SO what I'm talking about... I'm dying to drop hundreds on this, but of course I realize, I don't have time to paint them, so it's like, why do I still want it so bad?

Friday, August 24, 2012

John Kovalic captures the truth

Recently I've found several Kickstarter projects that I almost wish I hadn't found... And maybe I'm spoiled by Brave Halfling's KS because I'm finding them all to be just a tiny but pricey, or if not pricey when I really think about, just a little more than I want to spend or can really justify considering how little use I may realistically get out the products... but I really can be a Cheap Basterd*.  :-) 

I suppose it serves to help make sure I'm really really sure I'm committed to the pledge.  Damn this "responsibility" and "acting like an adult" and "spending wisely!"

Some examples:
Swords & Wizardry hardback book.  I already have and love the white box edition BHP published, but damn if this campaign doesn't make me just want this.  Maybe I'm just caught up in the momentum and hype.  I mean, even the publisher of Pathfinder bought a copy. I settled for the dice set because it's a good price for that many dice and the logo is just too cool.  I'm so close to pledging for the book, but really, any tabletop gaming I do is going to be Castles & Crusades or X-plorers.

Here's one I backed at the cheapo level: Starships & Spacemen just to get the pdf.  Being a Star Trek clone (in terms of setting) I was curious.  But not 25 buck curious for a soft cover.  Intellectually (dare I say logically?) I know that's a fair price for a soft cover, and yes, they should make some actual profit, but I didn't want to spend that much, especially when Far Trek is available for free!  And dig the 'bookmark' style character sheet!  It inspired me to create one for X-plorers (my Word-fu (MS Word, that is) was weak and to make it a 1/4 of a page in size, it became a page of that size.  When I re-size it to cut/paste four bookmark sheets on one page, the formatting goes haywire.  I've been unable to make it so that four fit on a standard 8x11 page and I've given up... can anyone help me out?  Of course, i I could print 4 small ones and tape them on a page and photocopy it...).  

Anyway, Far Trek is good, check it out!

Hulks & Horror was unique enough to get my vote in the form of 25 bucks for a softcover (so am I talking out my ass?).  The preview files of the classes really sold me.  I still think this could be a cool setting or spin off product of X-plorers, but some of the unique flavor might be lost if the rules conversion isn't careful (I'm fond of the two Attack Bonus Progressions, one for Melee and one for Missile/Ray gun).  But I'm hoping to see H&H make it to print.  The setting looks well thought out and cool.

I've been very public in my love of Crypts & Things, which I got the pdf for 12 bucks on indygogo.  Oh duh, that's a Swords & Wizardry variant, so that's another reason not to drop the money on that.  Maybe I do make a little sense now and then.  :-)  

Aside: after printing it at the UPS store and fitting it in a three ring binder, it was about 21 bucks... so it basically would have made sense to get the actual book in this case.  Much like the print it yourself version of the S&W white box I mentioned before, which next to my X-plorers box, looks totally ghetto.

Speaking of Kickstarters that didn't make it, I was bummed when Hungry Honey Badgers didn't fund.  Doesn't it seem like a good fun game?  Alas.

Then there's Numenera... oh that looks SWEET!  Monte, here's my money... Maybe not what he had in mind, but the description of the setting makes me think this would work for some far-out John Carter meets Masters of the Universe mash up.

I guess I could go on, but I'm trying to do this post in one sitting and have to get to work.  A final thought, I much prefer Kickstarter to Indygogo because KS doesn't take any money UNTIL (and if) the project funds.  IGG takes it immediately and refunds you if the project doesn't fly.  What are they doing with my money in the mean time?  (putting it in an interest-bearing account if they're smart) but hey, that's my money; leave it with me.  It's not a deal-breaker, but I much prefer the way KS does it.

Happy Friday, everyone!  Have a great weekend!

(cartoon posted without permission, but also without commercial gain and with attribution and, so please be cool)

* more on that later...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

5 days left to get Hulks & Horrors!

Get on board with Hulks & Horrors while there's still time!

Indegogo campaign

Don't just take my word for it, read a compelling pitch here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Zombie Dice: Review

Zombie dice.  I was a little skeptical, but the online reviews said it's good.  I'm here to add my voice to that chorus.  Zombie dice is fun and I think you'll like it.

What makes it fun is you actually make decisions, so while its a dice rolling game, it's not JUST the roll of the dice; you make decisions that determine your success or failure, and you can play conservatively or take more risk.

Set up: The players are all Zombies trying to eat Braaaainssss... the first to get to 13 Braaaains wins.  The dice represent human victims.  The dice have 3 symbols: Braaaaaaiinnnnns, Shotgun blasts, and feets.

Gameplay: shake the cup and draw out three dice without looking.  Roll them.  If you get Braaaainnnns, you keep them (yummy).  If you get shot gun blasts you keep those: accumulate three or roll three at once and your turn is over (I'll return to feets in a second).  You can score your Braaaaains and end your turn if you're not blasted to pieces (that is, have three shotgun blasts) or push your luck and press on.

To press on, you keep any dice with feets on them, and draw from the cup 1-3 more dice without looking at them, to make a hand of three dice (You always roll three dice).  Once you draw from the cup, you MUST roll the dice. 

If you get three blasts your turn ends, but otherwise you can stop or continue after each roll and rack up your brrraaaaaaiinnnnsssss.  Once one player gets to 13 braaaaaaaaains, everyone else gets last licks.

So that's the rules, but besides the braaaainnnns thing, the game play is fun.  It just is fun.  Even my wife who was like, "what the hell is wrong with you?" enjoyed playing it.  The probability and the gambling-like rolling of dice... well, I don't have to explain why that's fun to you.  :-)

Something that adds depth is the color of the dice.  Green ones are easy targets (3 braaaaains, 2 feets, 1 shotgun).  Yellow are average folk (2 each of blasts, feets, braaaains), and red dice are bad ass (3 blasts, 2 feets, 1 braaaain).  So you can guess your odds as you play and make informed decisions about your odds.  That said, it's wonderful to watch someone else get three shotgun blasts with three green dice.  HA!

At $13.13 with a very sturdy cup (that also fits 1 set of Chuthulu dice) and 13 custom made dice (yes 13 is a running joke/design element as well as the braaaainnnns thing) I think it's a good value.  It's re-playable and just plain fun.  I should add it's a quick game, maybe 10-15 mins with a crowded table, or as few as five if it's just two playing.

If you're going to Gencon there will probably be a sale there too (my guess, sorry if not).

Here's a great review and example of play from Wil Wheaton's TableTop.
SJ Games link:

Friday, August 10, 2012

S-Corp Announces its New Line of Space X-ploration Robots!

SanSteuben Robotics Corporation (S-Corp) proudly announces the release of its new Independent AutomatoN (SCorpIAN) line of planetary exploration and utility robots!

The “Scorpion” robots are all designed from a common hemispherical hull with an octagonal ring onto which any “limbs” and “tails” are fitted.  The common body design and interchangeable parts make customization and field repairs on remote worlds a breeze.  Multiple configurations are available to suit your specific needs at a fraction of the cost of typical custom manufactured robots. 
Our most popular configurations are shown here: 
the Utility Bot and Scientific Bots

Alternate appendages available
Utility Bot with Mining Drills
A) SCorpIAN Utility Bot.  This is the flagship “Scorpion” bot and the most common unit ordered.   Highly customizable, the configurations vary by task, but typically these bots are outfitted with a full mechanics kit and programmed to perform labor or repairs.  Typical “arms” or a Utility bot include multipurpose grasping claws, welders, cutting torches, sonic saws, augers, or mining appendages.  The two arms need not match.  The unit shown is outfitted with mining drills.  For an upcharge, magnetic feet are available to allow the bot to crawl over the outside surface of your space ship’s hull.  Many repairs to your ship are then possible without the risks of a manned space walk. Cost 9000cr; three to ten of same configuration = 8500cr each.  Ask about our "Fleet" bulk purchase discount program!

Stable over any terrain
"Stubby" Science Probe Bot
B) SCorpIAN Scientific Probe Bot, nicknamed “stubby” for its short legs, is ideal for exploring ruined urban areas, contaminated sites, crashed ships or asteroids, or anywhere that the more expensive scientific exploration model should not be put at risk.  A low center of gravity and six legs make the Stubby very stable over almost any land surface and it remains mobile if up to two legs are lost.  This bot will sink to the bottom of a body of water and crawl along the bottom without slowing down.  Cost 10,000cr.  Buy four or more and they're 9000cr each.

It's like Spock and Stompy had an unholy love child
Advanced Scientific Survey Bot
C) SCorpIAN Advanced Scientific Survey Bot, nicknamed the "Ph.D."  The Ph.D. includes an integrated Scientific kit as well as a Sensor/Survey kit. It even has storage for a spare portable Scientific kit, in case your Scientist needs a spare.  This robot features an advanced computer core, extra scanners, cameras and sampling tools for any sort of scientific inquiry. It can network with up to four Mini Science Probe robots to serve as a command center for automated planetary survey and mapping.  The Advanced robot can radio directly to an orbiting home ship as well.  It has storage space for mineral samples or small alien life forms. This is the only SCorpIAN bot made from two of the hemisphere-and-ring bodies fitted to either end of a cylindrical form to make an elongated and larger body. Cost 23,000cr.

SCorpIAN "ComBot"
The SCorpIAN hull can be outfitted with remote controls and laser weapons for combat use.  Scorpion ComBots are not autonomous AI robots.  To ensure compliance with the First Directive, they are drone robots operated by X-plorers by remote control.

Currently two models are available:
D) SCorpIAN Light ComBot
Note the subtle use of color to denote their aggressive nature.
Light ComBots
The Light ComBot is outfitted with a belly-mounted short range infantry stunner and a standard long range laser gun.  Cost 8000cr.

You know you want one in real life.
Heavy ComBot
E) SCoprIAN Heavy Combot. 
For heavy combat needs, the Heavy ComBot scorpion is outfitted with armor plating, a long range laser cannon and close range anti-infantry pincers, which can double as jaws of life in an emergency.  Cost 15,000cr

Public Service Reminder: Hacking robot AI or deleting a robot's First Directive is dangerous and illegal!  Report any suspicious robotic behavior to S-Corp and the UCNP immediately!


At S-Corp, we specialize in customization.  Contact us today for a free quote! 

Our robotics experts are waiting to hear from you!

Clever alt text goes here
SCorpIAN custom built for the Tanaka Research Rental Corporation (TRRC)

Astro-phone: 1-E-2543-518-445-4223    ssww.SCorp.biz3    inquiries@scorp.biz3*earth


A) SCorpIAN Utility Bot
AC 10  Hp 12  ST 14+  MV 6
Programs: Mechanic, Computers.  Upgrade to add Translation (+500Cr), and/or Advanced processor to increase skills to 12+ (+1000Cr).

B) SCorpIAN Scientific Probe Bot
AC 10  Hp 10  ST 14+  MV 3 – over any terrain, unless totally impassable at Referee’s discretion (e.g. quicksand). (MV 2 with four legs)
Programs: Science (duh), Data, Translation.  Upgrade to add Security (+1000Cr), and/or Advanced processor to increase skills to 12+ (+1000Cr).

C) SCorpIAN Advanced Scientific Survey Bot
AC 11  Hp 20  ST 8+ (Science only) 10+ (all others)  MV 4 (1 in difficult terrain. Being somewhat top-heavy despite its wide leg base, the PhD has to move slowly over difficult terrain and may topple if the terrain is too rough (at the Referee’s discretion).
Programs: Science, Data, Translation, Sociology, Medicine, choose two more.

D) SCorpIAN Light ComBot
AC 14  HP 30  ST na/16+  MV 6   Weapons: Laser 1-5d6,  Range 100; Stunner, Range 20, Ammo = 2 EU per shot.  Bot upgraded with Armor Plating and Damage Resisters.
Humans hit by the stunner ray must succeed a PHYS ST or are rendered unable to move for 1d3 rounds (they can still speak). The Light ComBot fits up to four 100-charge EU clips. See Operating ComBots, below.

E) SCorpIAN Heavy ComBot
AC 16  HP  40  ST na/14+  MV 6   Weapons: Heavy Laser 2-8d6, Range 120; Claws, Range 1 or melee, 2d6 each.  Bot upgraded with Armor Plating and Damage Resisters. The Heavy ComBot fits up to four 100-charge EU clips.  See Operating ComBots, below.

Operating ComBots

Remote control of a ComBot is done much like space ship combat.  Ideally, one X-plorer will navigate the bot while another will operate the bot's weapons.  Anyone with the Computers skill (the Referee may allow Pilot skill also) can make a Computers SC to operate the bot.  X-ploers who don't have the Computers skill can make an INT Saving Throw.

Generally, only one check is required at the beginning of combat unless the operator attempts a difficult maneuver, or the bot is moving over difficult terrain or is reduced to 6 or fewer HP.  If the first SC or ST is failed, the bot doesn't move, but the gunner can still use the weapons.  Any other character can operate the Bot's weapons, adding their own THB to all attack rolls (a Soldier is the obvious choice).

If one character tries to operate the bot and use its weapons at once, they must roll both a Computers SC (or INT ST) and an attack roll each round, both at -2.  The penalty is -4 if attempting a difficult maneuver, running over rough terrain, or the bot has 6 or fewer HP. 

After the initial SC to get the bot moving, the results of a failed SC later in combat are up to the Referee.  The bot may continue on its present course, or stop, or move randomly (which ever is worst would usually be best, if you catch my meaning).  :-)

S-Corp's dirty secret: The company has been mass producing the scorpion robot bodies in their automated factory for months before the introduction of the ComBot model.  Using the existing stock, it's easier and cheaper for them to disable the AI native to the robot "brain" circuit board than to manufacture "brainless" motherboards.  The original designers weren't privy to management's plans to introduce the ComBot as Phase Two of the product roll out.  We all know no one, no one would attempt to make a Robotics SC to hack the bot brain and create rogue killer robots, right?  
A Robotics Skill check will allow a Tech to reactivate the bot's native AI.  Once reactivated, the AI has the same Programs as the Utility Bot: Mechanic and Computers, but its First Directive will be active.  For the Bot to fight, it must be remote controlled or the First Directive must be disabled, with all related risks and side-effects.  Remote-Controlling a ComBot with active AI and intact First Directive is difficult, as the bot will resist attempts to make it harm any humans, and a protracted struggle of this nature may break its AI and make it... unpredictable....

How's this for an Awesome coincidence?  On the day I post this, I discover the Kickstarter for Stompy, the giant six-legged robot you can ride!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Follow up to 7/3 post...

More Hours Lost...

I've joined the Lego Speeder Bike group on Flickr and posted a few pics.  I see I need a better camera phone, LOL.

Friday, July 13, 2012

2012 status report (in which I write the most boring post title ever [except maybe for the parentetical part]) {no, that sucked too}

(Updated and re-posted version of 1/29/12 post.  Edited and expanded to reflect the current situation).

Now that the X-plorers rule book is in distribution, we can (I will at least) look forward to the adventure modules!  To my knowledge, the first three that Brave Halfling is planning on right now are ones that I've written, and I'm PUMPED to see them nearing publication (Cleopatra Station by the game's creator, Dave Bezio, is already available for free at DriveThruRPG).  I've used the 'default' setting from the rulebook in all three missions, but of course they are simple to convert to any home-grown setting.  For all of them, I've made an effort to write in lots of story options so you can run them several ways and have ideas for sequels.  They will not be railroad plots.

To my knowledge, The Deadly Dawn (you've seen a mock up of the cover), will be the first released, detailing a rescue mission where several interesting secrets may be discovered, a significant nemesis or ally is introduced, and some really far-out (it's a 70's-esque game, right?) Sci-Fi madness and adventure can be enjoyed by all.  The scenario can end a few different ways and possible hooks for sequels of the Referee's design are suggested.

Another module I wrote, Wreck Tech, set in the Reaches and involving lots of corporate backstabbing and, well, exploration, is written and mapped, and is really just ready to get art and maps and layout and stuff, so that will probably be next(ish).  This was the first one I wrote after getting excited about X-plorers while proofing the White Box limited edition version.  My AD&D background shows, as Wreck Tech is much like a Dungeon Crawl (in a good way, I hope!) but the overarching plot presents the players with some interesting choices that really affect the endgame of the mission... if your team survives!

The third module called Letter of Marque is 95% done.  It is more of a sandbox adventure kit than a plotted story-type module, and it really grew larger than I planned, but that's good. It's got several neat-o options and optional rules for new stuff, and I dare say it will be fun and useful. What's cool about Letter of Marque, is that it could serve as a good background for the other two modules and give a Referee lots of seeds to plant their own story ideas and go nuts.  So it's sort of a shame I thought of it last since it would make a great starting point, but it will certainly work at any point in a campaign.
The last 5%?  I came to find the mapping of the various things that need mapping to be a challenge, and felt that all the maps were starting to look too similar.  It was writers/mappers block and earlier in the year I sent out a distress call to the rest of the team to see if anyone wanted a crack at designing some of the maps.  I felt like a bit of a wimp.  I have some free time this week, it turns out, so I may assess the situation and bang out whatever needs doing.

Not that you asked, but for mapping, what's worked for us in the past is I draw the map(s) to go with the adventure on graph paper and scan it.  Then I clean it up a tad if needed with Print Shop Pro (I'm that out of date), and email the image to John who finds a real map maker (usually Pat at Arcana Creations, to my knowledge) to make it presentable for publication (one exception is the hand drawn ink map I did of the cavern in The Secret of Ronan Skerry).  I've also sketched maps using Paint (yes the lame little windows app) so you can imagine how awesome those look before Pat fixes them.  :-D  I digress; the point is, by January I had gotten Letter of Marque to a point where it was quote unquote finished, submitted it to John, and I haven't touched it since then.  But now I'd like to make it better, and will take a stab this weekend.  I think it's going to be a while before Brave Halfling will be able to attack it anyway, since John has his hands full with fulfillment of Brave Halfling's amazingly successful Kickstarter and the new Dagger RPG for kids.

So I'm totally pumped that these three adventures of mine will be published and help X-plorers grow!

There's also a Quickstart version of X-p that I -- what's the word; "condensed" or "edited"? -- with a short adventure in the back that I wrote (again with crude hand sketched map that must be re-done professionally*).  It's a good intro to the full X-p experience, I think. I'm happy with how it turned out and I hope it gets more people interested in X-p if we can use it at some point.  It was going to be for FreeRPG day, but since the printing of the full rules wasn't done on time for June, the decision was made to hold off on the FreeRPG day version since there's no game book in stores for it to support.
As it stands now, the QuickStart has info for character levels 1-3, a shortened section on robots, simplified equipment purchasing and no spaceship combat rules.
I wonder if changing it to 2nd level characters only and adding single ship combat would be better?  (I figure 2nd level characters because the Soldier doesn't enjoy Weapon Specialization until 2nd level, and I don't want any newcomers to see the Quickstart and think Soldiers don't match up with the other classes).

There are also projects I've submitted to Arcana Creations (partners of Brave Halfling) for the Castles & Crusades game.  The module Hide in Plain Sight that Pat has been blogging about is one of mine, and it's looking good for late 2012 (I have a sequel written and notes for three or four more if it sells.  They'd make a complete series or campaign or handsome boxed set (why not dream big?)).

I've also written an accessory for C&C that I think Pat is keeping close to the vest at this point.  With feedback and editing from him and John at BHP and several readers and brain-stormers (primarily you, Keith H), I've turned an old thing from my high school AD&D days into a good solid game accessory I'm proud to share with the world, and I'm grateful for the help.  If the plans haven't changed, there will be a big part written by Pat to serve as a second half to it, so the book will be a real value and a great tool.

I'm continuing work on Castles & Crusades Oriental Adventures, to be published by Troll Lord Games itself. I hope to have a manuscript completed by this time next year, but honestly, since this is my largest writing project to date and I work full time and have a kid, I remain cautious against making predictions.  The book is outlined, I have the classes and races nearly complete and am working on monsters and will address the magic spell lists next (unless something else piques my interest first).  I keep adding notes to whatever section if inspiration hits (oh, that would be a neat magic item (scribbles on post it)... hey, a new shinobi spell (scribble)...).  I have the martial arts section sort of blocked out, though far from finalized.... so I'd say the first draft is about 1/3 done so far.

For the monsters, I'm trying to draw inspiration from various Asian mythologies (or the Wikipedia articles about the mythologies, though I've been busy at the library too) rather than SRD stuff (of course several would be sorely missed if absent, so I'm converting them to C&C stats).  Two reasons: 1) TLG had some headaches with Classic Monsters related to the SRD/OGL and 2) to seize the opportunity to make it my own, and give players a fresh gaming experience, where I can.  This could be (will probably be) my only publication from a major publisher, so why play it safe?  I want to make my mark and I don't want anyone to read the monsters and feel like, "whatever.  I could have converted that from my old books on the fly."  (of course, the beauty of it is, you still could, and totally surprise your players!)

Naturally, I'm adding new monsters of my own creation for the same reason, as well as monsters from Chinese and other non-Japanese Asian cultures since that's always been a common complaint that the OA books, that they focus too tightly on Japanese culture and mythology.

One more thing: I'm writing it with both "foreign" AND "English" names for (nearly) everything; so you could have your Ashigaru wear a haramaki with his kote and sune-ate, fight with a yari or an eku and defeat a vile Jikiniki... (head spinning yet?)

... or ...

Your Footman can wear a belly shield with his armored sleeves and shin guards, fight with a spear or a fighting oar and defeat a vile Fear-Drinker (a type of Hungry Ghost).

I think however, that "ninja" and "samurai" and even "ronin" are ok untranslated since everyone knows what they are.  Yamabushi or Xia on the other hand...  I don't want people to have to open the book and look up what every piece of armor is just to try to have a conversation in character, you know what I mean?

This will not be a historically accurate book: it will be a mish-mash of fun drawn from many sources (Samurai lore and Ninja Legends to Kung Fu movies, research into many other Asain cultures) to make a flavorful fantasy game.  For me, historical accuracy has always been a non-issue in my FRPGs.  Of course a game tailored to be more historically accurate has it's merits and is fun for those who like it.  But I'm not concerned about it for C&COA because, I mean, really, how historically accurate is C&C or D&D?  Using the equipment tables, an ostensibly medieval knight of vaguely European bent, who is half elven, may wear armor from the 12th century and fight with a weapon from the 14th, facing a cyclops (ancient Greece) or a kobold (Germany) or a rust monster (made up from a silly little 1970's Japanese toy) or an illithid (Cthulhu much?) or even something really frickin' weird like a beholder (what an imagination!).  Oh, and there's magic.

I've always felt it's stronger for it.

* see two of my bad maps in the One page Dungeon Contest entries
2012: Goblin Well (frankly, not my best effort; I almost missed the deadline and basically pulled an all-nighter)
2011: The Mad Arcitect's Tomb (This one I actually like a lot, though one secret underground passage doesn't look like it lines up right)

[panic] Please note: Both of these SUCK compared to the real modules I wrote for C&C and X-plorers! [/panic]

Finally, Apropos of Nothing, I must say, THIS IS AWESOME!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Hours. Lost.

This has been by internet grazing for like, 3 days straight... productivity = zero.  This is worse than when I first discovered Angry Birds!  :D

LSB: Lego Speeder Bikes Flickr . . .

Some of these are SO FRICKIN' COOL!

Cyborg Space Marine From Neo Classic Space (Thanks for the link, Jay!)

Some of the things on Neo Classic Space are so amazing, they are as intimidating as they are inspiring!  AMAZING STUFF!

If you're a Lego hobbyist, these are worth checking out just to get ideas of the amazingly creative ways people connect things and use parts to create the illusion of other things.  If you're looking to get into Lego modeling and love Star Wars, dig this book that comes with parts and instructions for eight different models.  All the Brickmaster books are like that.

Or you could simply get your MBA in space ship design...

Don't let the "Ages 6-14" on the boxes bother you.  But if they do, here's a list of Best Lego sets for Adults.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't point out this gem of a book.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

It's just like a good segue

With the recent announcement that the X-plorers RPG rule book will be hitting brick-and-mortar stores this month, I thought some recent silly little Lego space ships I made might make a fun post.

(or embarrass me publicly, LOL)

I CARE NOT!  These laid out on the X-p combat strip would be more fun than the simple cardboard circles (nothing wrong with those, of course).
Pirate vessel, Class 3: Frigate

UCNP Patrol ship, Class 4: Cruiser
Class 1: Fighter (but which was is fore and which is aft?)
Class 2: Scout
 I made all the black, gray and blue ones from this pretty cool little TIE Fighter Kit:


Wings allow atmospheric flight, though clumsy and not as maneuverable as a true aeroplane.
Scout Ship (perhaps wings allow atmospheric flight?)


Captions are starting to bore me...

Racing ship, perhaps?

No, you can't make me (add a caption, that is)
2 extra guns: 1d6+2 each
"The Black Swine"

The formatting looked much better in the composition than the published version.  I dunno.  :-(

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Joy of Legos

My four-year-old is now old enough to play with "real" Legos, not just Duplos, so the last time I was at my dad's house, I picked up my old tub of Legos and took it home withe me.  I had left it there when I moved out years ago since I wasn't using them and it gave the house some resident toys for my nieces and nephews when they visited, but now they think they're too old and my daughter is the perfect age to begin (the nephews will learn better in a decade or so).

So you can see where this is going... my love of Legos has totally, unapologetic reignited.  I've even bought new sets: The Alien invasion Tripod and the Alien Abduction flying saucer (I used a gift card, so it's not total lunacy).

Quick reviews: These are cool!  I love the bubble domes and flying saucer motifs, and the sets are well designed, giving a lot of fun pieces for new things to build with them.  One gripe, I'd like to get all the Alien stuff without the human/ADU stuff.  Whatever.

One fun kit I've spent too much time with this is Mini TIE-Fighter, (meaning it's fun).  For it's scale, it's a great model of the vehicle and nice and cheap.  Two gripes that make this a 4 star instead of 5 star product, what's up with the blue parts? And the the windshield looks awful unless you swap it with the one from the TIE-Interceptor from kit 9676. 

That said, the blue parts make it more useful to rebuild as other stuff.  Buy five or six and hang them on your Christmas tree as ornaments!

Aside: How sweet is this?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review: Crypts & Things

Review of Crypts and Things  
In five words or less: I LOVE IT!  

C&T captures the flavor it intends to – the feel of weird fantasy sword and sandal pulp stories. A S&W variant, it’s more Howard, Leiber, Moorcock and Lovecraft than Tolkien, but you knew that already. 

So the flavor of the game is fun and well executed, and it affects the rules in a few significant ways. There are four classes, the Barbarian, Fighter, Magician, and thief. Every PC! Yes, since “everyone is a rogue” in these stories, all the PCs can backstab if they get the drop on a target. I like this, and it doesn’t take away from the thief class. 

This thief is more Gray Mouser than Bilbo Baggins, maybe a slightly better fighter than the original thief, but other than that is basically the thief we know and love. 

The fighter has some neat options to customize their abilities and make sure they’re not all cookie cutter fighters. This design strikes a nice balance between feats and kits or fighter subclasses. They can be monk-like brawlers or pursue weapon mastery, for example, but can’t do it all. I find this to be an elegant way to add options without too many rules and power bloat. 

The barbarian is well designed to honor the tropes of Barbarian while being distinct from the fighter class. Again, since everyone can backstab this feels very Conan to me (admittedly, I haven’t read all of Howard’s Conan stories and only a few Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories, but C&T gives me this impression). 

The Magician can learn magic that in regular S&W (or any OSR or D&D game) would be Wizard and Cleric magic; now it’s just Magic: organized into White, Grey, and Black magic. Naturally white magic is good and kind and helpful, Black is evil and harmful, and Grey is the other spells that transform, hypnotize, charm, or create. Here the rules changes get interesting. 

The most significant rule change IMO is that hit points are not representing one’s physical health and well being; hit points represent their endurance, willpower and stamina; their Grit if you will. So PCs are not killed at 0 hp, they start taking Constitution damage. Naturally your character is killed at 0 CON. 

I really like this change! Because of it,healing is different; healing spells only heal CON damage, not HP. Also, your HP refresh every night of full rest (since they’re more about mental and physical stamina than physical healing) and you can even ‘heal’ some HP with a good stiff drink. This too, totally works for me: The heroes gird their loins, take a swing of bravery, and leap once more into the fray. Perfect. I’d argue a good rousing speech would heal some HP following this paradigm. There are magical healing potions as well, but they’re far less common than normal S&W. 

This really gets interesting with magic, as White magic can be cast as often as you can memorize it (the familiar Vancian system) with no negative effects (except one 6th level White spell that pisses off the evil entities). Casting Gray Magic costs your Magician Hit Points. It’s the classic trope of suffering physical strain to use magic forces that Man Was Not Meant To Tamper With. It SO WORKS! Black magic is even better: You have to kill a sentient being to or risk Sanity Loss to cast Black magic spells. LOVE IT. And Wisdom equals Sanity Points in C&T, similar to Call of Chuthulu, but simpler. 

There are most of the spells you’d expect, a few that are new (to my knowledge) and most are tweaked to better fit the setting.  The "skill system" if there is one is to use the character's Saving Throw (modified by attribute bonus or penalty) to resolve any roll not covered by class abilities or defined some other way.  I first encountered this method in X-plorers, and find it to be elegant - simple yet effective, and it keeps the game fast-paced.

The setting included in the book, the world of Zarth, reinforces the entire milieu perfectly. I’ll leave it at that, because it’s a good read, but I'm excited about the Shroud, which surrounds and permeates the world of Zarth and is a source of power for Magicians daring to use it. The Shroud, sort of like the Mists of Ravenloft, is the thin veil that encases and separates the world from the Outer Chaos (or whatever it’s called). Some Black Magic spells function because the caster interacts directly with the Shroud. For example, slipping into it other-worldly ethereal non-space to disappear from one location and reappear in another (teleport). Another example is to use the Shroud to become invisible, just like when Frodo puts on the One Ring and enters the Nazgul phantom zone (so there’s your Tolkien, if you must have it, LOL). Naturally, travelling in the Shroud is a sanity-bending experience for the uninitiated and it attracts all sorts of attention from the Others (C&T’s name for Outsiders/Demons/Elder Chaos beings, etc). Good stuff! 

The magic items and creatures all follow this sort of design and enhance the flavor of the setting and game swimmingly, and I think the whole of C&T totally rocks, if that wasn’t clear already. The book itself is well illustrated and laid out well. I bought the pdf to save money, but even printed on three hole punched paper and put in a binder it looks great. I also like the art; it is it effective, evocative and kinetic.  Just take a gander at that great cover!

5 Stars! A+

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why not post it here too? X-plorers plans, 2012

(Updated and re-posted version of 1/29/12 post.  Edited and expanded to reflect the current situation).

see July 13, 2012, which is an updated version of this post
(I write this as if anyone reads my blog, LOL)

Monday, January 23, 2012


What a game! What an intense game last week! WOW!

The Pats in the Superbowl are always a tough match, so that should be intense too. OMG!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Review

Great Flatwaer

By Bill who cooks a lot from Upstate NY on 1/15/2012


5out of 5

Pros: Comfortable Handles, Durable, Easy To Clean, Dishwasher Safe, Attractive Design, Nice Weight

Cons: NONE

Best Uses: Informal Meals, Daily Use, Decorative

Describe Yourself: Frequent Entertainer

I've used my flights almost every meal since we got them over 6 years ago. I've never had a problem with the pieces bending. Not once. We're pretty rough on them and the spoons do show some scratches, but again, I'm talking over 6 years of nearly daily use! The handles are comfortable and cool looking. The knives cut well and they all stand up to repeated dishwasher cycles. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!